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39 responses to “Perfect Seared Fish”

  1. mike rivera

    Since you asked for opinions from people that cook for a living ill put my two cents in. First thanks for posting on a basic skill people should know.An emphasis on the skin being dry cannot be said enough.

    The first thing I see and a cook is going to look at, is that skin because thats what we used to be scrutinized for. The fish in the photo has uneven browning if just slightly. The spatula you are using in my humble opinion is too big. I think it caused that waviness in that skin.
    I use a fish spatula(slotted) or an offset flexible spat. Anyway just little things. keep up the good work, I look forward to all your posts.

  2. Ed

    Great technique! What a great eating fish a striped bass is.

    You mentioned that it won’t work with bony fish like shad (which are running right now in Sacramento). I want to share a video I ran across where a guy shows how to debone a shad – amazing!

    (I like his method of cleaning striped bass as well)

  3. Amy

    Do you ever score the skin a few times before searing? I find with very fatty fish like salmon it helps the skin to crisp up and keep from shriveling.

  4. Mark kringlen

    Sounds good will try on Okla crappie do you have a good side sauce?

  5. Tim

    Good stuff Hank. Rockfish are really fresh and abundant here in the markets in Virginia right now and always a personal favorite seared in the pan! Well done!

  6. deana

    I’ve been making fish for 100 years and I just learned that scraping trick last year. It makes all the difference in the world. Now I have crisp skin but will try your salting trick to see if I can make it even better.

    As for aioli, I made cod cake recipe last night that called for a spinach aioli. I didn’t have spinach but did have stinging nettles… wow, what a great sauce. Right up your alley.

    That fish picture has my mouth watering!

  7. Kevin

    Thanks for the basic skills stuff. Now, if I could just find some time to get the flyrod out and head to the creek/pond!

  8. Stella

    This is quite helpful! Most of the time I forget to cook on the skin side first, or when I do, I turn it too early. By the way, I sprinkle minced garlic. I like the fish a bit caramelized that blends well with the crispy skin.

  9. Jason Brady

    Great tutorial. Cooked a whole 10″ LM Bass last night using your scraping trick. Fantastic.

    What do you do with the large Striper’s? I’ve always skinned them so you could remove the blood line. I’ve been looking at techniques to bleed them once you beach one, maybe that could remove the need to take out the dark meat?


  10. Angler Gang

    Very professional great tips.. I’m off to catch some fish!

  11. Robin

    After reading this, I know I wasn’t getting crispy skin because I wasn’t drying it well. Very helpful. I’m hoping to catch a small mouth bass or two this weekend so that I can try again for crispy skin.

  12. PeterLee

    Just tried this tonight and it worked perfectly! Amazing! I even more evenly browned skin than in your photo. Thanks, Hank!

    My biggest worry was that the entire filet would just totally stick to the pan at that high heat and that I would end up with a burnt mess (I used a solid aluminum pan that I’ve seasoned myself). So, I really appreciated the little details you gave about how it might stick a little bit, and how you shouldn’t worry about that.

    I also used a nice, wide fish spatula, which made flipping the fish without it breaking up a breeze. Very helpful.

    Love your blog and hope to get some of your books soon. Keep it up!


    Hank: whereaway the vid on pan searing fish? Ready to pan sear some redfish fillets. Shot a calm doe btw eyes, quick field work, wiped down with towel soaked in vinegar 25% water 75%, aged 8 days. Just wonderful meat. Chilindron on the way! Shot some woodies in my front yard this morn. A DU friend sent me “the best” duck stew recipe recently. Hell, I can eat 2 stews in a week!

  14. » How to Crisp Skin of Your Pan-Seared Fish

    […] finish the job. It can be a challenge if you want perfectly-seared fish, but all you need are a few things first. Learn how seafood master Hanks Shaw did […]

  15. Margo

    I just found your website, and this post in particular, after searching how to cook fish as I find it intimidating. I’m looking forward to trying the technique you show in your video. I have a couple of questions:

    1. If the piece of fish I want to cook has had the skin removed or if it is a steak, I’m assuming I would still cook it the same way. Correct?

    2. My husband is a fan of dover sole. The recipes I have found include dredging in flour and s&p. I haven’t been happy with this method. Could dover sole be cooked your way or is it too fragile as it cooks so quickly.

    Thank you for the video. It is extremely helpful.

  16. jacqueline

    These are great tips. I wanna try this with the skin on now.

    thank you.

  17. Eric Ritter

    I’ve found that if you apply some oil to the fish with a brush, rather than pouring the oil into the pan, you can avoid the excess oil burning and setting off your smoke alarm.

  18. Halibut with Nettle Sauce, Peas & Miner’s Lettuce | Langdon Cook

    […] cooked peas into a shallow bowl. Plate pan-fried halibut fillet (see my friend Hank Shaw’s tutorial for pan-searing fish) over sauce and garnish with miner’s lettuce leaves. This recipe will […]

  19. Arthur Hochstein

    Hi Hank,
    I’ve attempted to pan-sear fish many times, and have a chance to observe the technique of some of the top chefs in New York in open kitchens. Until I saw your video and blog, I had mixed results, to say the least. Today I got a piece of wild striper at the Lobster Place in NYC, and put your technique to the test. I knew about “milking” the skin and some of the other things you demonstrated, but you showed the steps with such clarity and simplicity that it really made a difference—especially with regard to when you apply seasoning, and the use of butter at the end of the process. Even with some mistakes on my part, I have to say that the results were exquisite, easily one of the best pieces of fish I’ve ever had. Skin adhered, and had the consistency your described, and added immeasurably to the taste. And the fish was done perfectly. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and next time I’m going to to it even better!

  20. Cecil Reed

    What about normal corn meal frying fillets with skin on the one side?thanks.

  21. 6 Techniques You Need to Know to Cook Perfect Fish |

    […] fish in a pan, because that’s when thin, delicate fillets fall apart. After learning how to sear the perfect fish from Hank Shaw, I decided to adapt his technique without the flip, particularly when using a thin piece of […]

  22. Marianne

    FINALLY I found the details never found in most cookbooks nor passed down from Mama and Grandma who only deep fried…but it was incredibly GOOD fried, crispy fish. Can’t wait to try it myself. Thanks

  23. Steve

    Thank you for these tips! I used them with some thick Striper filets recently and they turned out amazing.

    I had a quick question: how do you time this for a party of 4? Two pans going at once? Or do 2 in one pan and then keep them warm (or let them finish out the cooking) in an oven? Thanks!

  24. Richard

    Interesting method and a 180 from the conventional. Usually the fish is seared on the flash side and finished on the skin side. I have never seen a restaurant sear the skin and blanch the flesh sides of fish but there is a first for everything. Most would pan roast a thick piece of fish and griddle a thin piece.

  25. Deanna Overstreet

    First time pan searing fish, turned out really good. I didn’t have the suggested oil so I used coconut oil. My fish of choice catfish. Delicious!!! It stuck some so I have some perfecting to do!!! Will definitely so this again,,,, and regularly!!!!

  26. AJ

    You just changed my life. Thank you! 🙂

  27. Eiki Martinson

    I’ve done this three times now, with yellowtail snapper most recently. It’s always been perfect. Thanks!

  28. Craig

    Can coconut oil and coconut butter substitute suggested oil and butter?

  29. adrian


    will your guide work on Cod fish? I’ve tried to pan sear a Cod fish without its skin (the fish I bought are cut like steak). I wanted to make the surface of the fish solid and crips. would it be possible? any help on how to sear cod fish is welcome.

  30. Mary @ Fit and Fed

    Thanks for the tips, Hank. I cooked walleye for the first time last night, nervous because I was using my mom’s electric stove and feeding nine. I ran the knife over the skin and dried it as you suggested, and seared the fish skin side down with just a little time with it flipped. Served it with lemon juice and a dill and butter sauce. Turned out great, lots of compliments.

  31. Black Sea Bass | Locals Seafood

    […] out this site and video to learn how to get the perfect pan sear. For trying out Sea Bass in its Asian-inspired glory, we suggest you pre-order a whole fish. Simply […]

  32. Luke


    Do I need to worry about scales or anything else on rainbow trout before searing it? I know there skin is different, similar to salmon, but not sure if scaling is required.


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